How do Finnish schools engage their parents?

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I’d like to begin by thanking two Finnish leaders I connected with on Twitter using the hashtag #finnedchat -Aki Puusteinen and Timo Ilomäki.  Mr. Ilomäki (@Ilotimo) is a teacher, school counselor and Coordinator of Entrepreneurship in Jyväskylä, Finland.  He also facilitates the weekly #FinnEdChat on Twitter and writes a blog entitled Educational Technology- Theory & Practice.  Mr. Puusteinen (@apuustin), of Muurame, Finland, is the Headmaster of Muurame High School and Coordinator of Finnish Entrepreneurship.  He also helps facilitate #finnedchat and writes the Leadership Think Tank blog.In just a few 140 character tweets, I was able gather some information on how schools are connecting with families 4197 miles away in Helsinki, Finland.  Before I connected with these two talented leaders, I read Smithsonian’s Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful by Columbia University professor Lynell Hancock.

Image Credit: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/distanceresult.html?p1=198&p2=101

Much has been written about the success of Finnish schools, but how do they engage parents in their students’ education?  Will we find any discrepancies to our FACE approach here in the United States?  This BBC video provided some general characteristics on enrollment and examples of school culture:  Students do not begin school until they are seven years old in Finland.  Prior to formal schooling, parents take responsibility for educating their children at home.  Parents are very well aware they have a key role in their child’s education from a young age.  Although there is little immigration and language acquisition (i.e. ELLs) isn’t a great challenge, Finnish schools accept diversity and work hard to keep an active dialogue between home and school.

In exchanging tweets on family engagement efforts in Finland, Timo Ilomäki shared that his school uses social media including a Facebook site to engage families.  The site is posted in Finnish (spoken by 92% of the country), but can be read when using Google Translate to copy and paste text from Finnish to English.  Daily updates and reminders were the subject of last week’s posts including informational videos supporting students and parents with current events going on at school.

Ilomäki went on to share his use of a school-home communication system called Wilma used to share student data and attendance information.  Using Wilma, his school can send messages to parents and students keeping them engaged throughout the school year.

The #FinnEdChat blog was shared by Aki Puusteinen and contains a great deal of information for educators in search of Finnish educational resources in English.  One highlight of the page is a presentation slideshow of the 2011 Reform Symposium on the Finland Education System.

There is a great deal for us to learn from other countries including Finland in terms of how they are engaging parents.  Social media is obviously playing an educational role in connecting with families.  To further understand their efforts, I’ve requested that an upcoming #FinnEdChat be focused on highlighting exemplary family engagement efforts.  If the request is honored, I’ll share out the time and date of the Twitterchat.

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